Got Beaujolais Nouveau?
Visit a vineyard in Burgundy, and it’s an analytical experience – note taking, discussions, facts and figures. Head south a bit to the Beaujolais region, and you’ll probably walk into one big party.
“In Beaujolais I was greeted with a polka band,” exclaimed Phil Laramore, French Portfolio Manager at Grand Vin. “You don’t over analyze Beaujolais Nouveau. It’s very, very young. It’s not a serious wine, it’s just a fun, easy drinking wine.”
Nouveau refers to the fact there is so little time between when the grapes are harvested and when the completed wine is consumed. This year, they had the earliest harvest in the past 130 years – thank the extended French heat wave for that – meaning people were in the fields picking grapes (Gamay) by Aug. 10.
Due to an early season hail storm, the crop yield was significantly smaller. Because fewer grapes got to soak up the minerals in the soil, the grapes are sweeter than usual.
Beaujolais Nouveau is a fruity, easy-to-drink wine. There’s not a whole lot of nuance to be discovered. It’s made to be drunk, and fast – end of story.
For the past several decades, winemakers and wine sellers can’t release their Nouveau vino to the public until the third Thursday of November.
“This is a long-standing tradition,” said Laramore. “The French love to dictate what you can and can’t do in every wine region. And you can’t drink Nouveau before that third Thursday.”
To celebrate the occasion, all over France there are parties. The first casks of Nouveau leave the Beaujolais region at the stroke of midnight, and arrive in Paris in time for the evening’s hoopla. Not too long ago, it traveled via camel, rickshaw, balloon, runners and helicopters to the far-flung corners of the earth.
Local suppliers like Grand Vin get their wine about a week early, but they don’t release it to their customers until the set date. Grand Vin carries Deboeuf, known in the industry as the “King of Nouveau.”
“We deliver it on Thursday,” said Laramore. “There’s nothing else on our trucks but that wine on that day. Literally, everyone at Grand Vin grabs a truck and runs around, because we can’t deliver it early or late.”
One of those deliveries will be to La Tour in Vail. Thursday, Nov. 20, the restaurant is hosting the inaugural Beaujolais Nouveau Masquerade Party. Attendees are asked to wear a mask, but it doesn’t have to be intricate.
“We’ll have a cask of Nouveau,” said Paul Ferzacca, chef and proprietor of La Tour. “We’re going to party until the cask runs dry.”
The evening will begin with hors d’oeuvres, followed by a Burgundy-style buffet and dancing. La Tour is a cozy space known for first-rate food, service and atmosphere. Over the course of the evening, there will be booby prizes and a best masquerade costume contest.
“It’s going to be a fun and zany night,” promised Craig Bale of Grand Vin.
Because of the timing on the release, Nouveau is often served at Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. It’s priced for a crowd, too.
“I think it’s something we could do every year,” said Ferzacca. “It should be a really fun night.”
With a cask of wine – and bottles for back up – it could hardly be anything but.
Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.
what: Beaujolais Nouveau party
when: Nov. 20, Hors d’oeuvres 6-7:30 p.m., Buffet dinner 7:30-9 p.m., Dancing 9 p.m.-close
where: La Tour, Vail
Cost: $39 plus gratuity and tax, includes wine, dinner and prizes
More info: Call 476-4402
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